Dreadnought vs Concert: Which is a Better Acoustic Guitar Variant?

Guitars are some of the best known and varied instruments in the world today. They come in many shapes, sizes, and with many different features on each one, including pick-ups, resonation, and string variation. 

With all this variety, you would expect there to be a lot of debate about what kinds of guitars are the best, and you would be completely right in that assessment.

Dreadnought vs Concert: Which is a Better Acoustic Guitar Variant?

These arguments tend to revolve around either electric or acoustic guitar varieties themselves, and no other question is more hotly contested than the acoustic standoff between dreadnought guitars and concert guitars. 

This may puzzle some readers as many people probably haven’t heard of these kinds of acoustic guitar, but rest assured it is a hotly contested subject.

So, why do people argue over these guitars? Are there actual mechanics and sound logic to the arguments? Or is it just points of pride clashing?

In this article, we will look at each of these types of guitar – both dreadnought and concert – and give you the rundown of each type, before arguing for our favorite. 

Acoustic Guitars

While it did develop from instruments that preceded it, the original guitar appeared in the 1600s in Spain. These were smaller, more rounded instruments that had a small decorative hole in the center of their base.

The strings were high tension and held in place by push pegs instead of, much more stable, mechanical gear pegs.

These days, an acoustic guitar is any kind of guitar made of wood, usually spruce or maple, which has been designed to amplify its acoustic properties, rather than being designed for amplification by electronics.

This means that they can produce music without needing electricity, and so they are often used by musicians who require their instrument to play while not plugged into a power source. 

The most common form of an acoustic guitar is a solid body, meaning that the top is made from a single piece of wood.

Other forms include hollow bodies, which have a wooden top but also contain internal chambers like an air box, allowing them to resonate differently depending upon the size of the chamber. 

Many guitarists use acoustic guitars, particularly folk artists, because they can easily carry them to gigs and practice spaces, unlike electric guitars, which need to be plugged in.

For instance, if you’re playing a gig in your living room, it’s easier to plug in your electric guitar than move your acoustic guitar back out to the car where it came from. 

What is a Dreadnought Guitar?

The term “dreadnought” actually comes from the classifications of ships carried aboard British naval vessels at the turn of the 20th century, rather than a classical leaning of music.

A dreadnought ship was a vessel larger than destroyers, but smaller than battleships. It was named after the Royal Navy’s first dreadnought battleship HMS Dreadnought, launched in 1906. 

From there, the term “dreadnought” became the name of a series of large warships built up until the First World War. The last dreadnought warship, HMS Vanguard, was decommissioned in 1959. 

Today, though, the word “dreadnought”, as well as “concerto” (which refers to a particular style of classical music), are used as generic terms for a guitar with similar design characteristics. 

A dreadnought-style guitar is one that is generally wider across the fretboard than normal, and has fewer frets. In fact, the number of frets on a dreadnought-style acoustic guitar, such as Taylor Made’s TS9, usually only goes up to eight. 

Why is the Term Dreadnought Used When Talking About Guitars?

There are two main reasons why dreadnought-style guitars are called “dreadnoughts”. One reason is that they tend to be thicker all around than other styles of acoustic guitars.

They also tend to be heavier than other models, even though they don’t weigh as much as some solid-body electric guitars. 

Another reason is that dreadnought-style designs are sometimes associated with the classical guitar. Because classical guitarists tend to play higher notes than other types of players, it makes sense to build guitars with stronger necks to hold those strings up. 

The term “dreadnought” was originally applied to these thick-necked, heavy-bodied guitars because it made people think of the big, powerful ships from years past. However, the term has since come to mean any guitar of this type. 

The one thing people tend to think of when they play this type of guitar is that the sound is far bolder than other variations.

The massive body of the dreadnought-style guitars means that the notes resonate very loudly from the body, making the notes sound loud, strong, and clear, something that is not readily available in other kinds of acoustic guitar. 

What is a Concert Guitar?

Concert guitars were developed by luthiers – a crafts person who builds and repairs stringed instruments – specifically for performing in front of an audience.

These instruments have been designed to give musicians more volume, sustain, and projection than traditional acoustic guitars. 

Concert guitars have become so popular among performers that many manufacturers now make their own versions of the instrument. Some of these companies include Taylor Guitars, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Gibson Guitar Company, and Martin Guitars. 

The primary reason is that while they offer a louder and more sustained sound, they are also designed to be unobstructive and easily handled by the musician themselves.

These types of guitars also come with many features embedded into the guitar themselves, such as pickups, or these features can be easily added later which is perfect for stage musicians. 

Why is the Term Concert Used When Talking About Guitars?

The two main reasons that these kinds of guitars are called concert guitars is that they are the middling size of all 6 guitar types, and they can have extra features fitted into them easily.

The size of concert guitars being directly in the middle of all guitars means that you can have a fairly bold sound, while it is still quite controlled and moderate, not blaring loudly when recording. 

Because these guitars have extra features built into them, they are often referred to as “concert guitars”. The most obvious example of this would be a guitar with a pickup system.

Other examples include the ability to add a bridge to allow easier access to the high strings, and the inclusion of a strap button, allowing the guitarist to place the guitar on his shoulder without having to use a strap. 

Are There Different Sizes of Concert Guitars?

Yes. There are several different sizes of concert guitars out there. The biggest difference between them is how wide they are across the fingerboard. This width is measured in inches, and ranges anywhere from 14 to 19. A smaller size might measure 17 1/2″, whereas a larger size will measure 18″.

Dreadnought and Concert Guitars: Differences Between the Two

These days, most acoustic guitar makers offer both dreadnought-style and concert-guitar models. While the two styles may look different, they share many common features and can easily be confused. 

Both styles have bodies that are relatively wide compared to other acoustic guitars. Both have thicker necks, which allow them to hold up long strings without breaking.

Both have fingerboards that are narrower than those found on standard acoustic guitars and both have bodies that are either hollow or semi-hollow.

But this doesn’t mean they are the same guitar and there are many differences that each guitar has that is missing from the other. Let’s take a look at these differences.

Size

The first thing to note is that both Dreadnoughts and Concerts are sized differently. For one, the body sizes are significantly different. Dreadnoughts usually have a body size of around 12″ x 5 3/4” (30.5 cm x 15 cm), while concerts generally range from 16″ to 18″ (40-45 cm). 

Another major difference is the neck size. Dreadnoughts tend to have necks that are much thinner than those found on Concerts. In fact, the average Dreadnought’s neck is only 2 7/8″ (7 cm) thick, while the average Concert’s neck is 4 1/4” (10 cm) thick. 

Construction

In terms of construction, there are some key differences between the two. Dreadnoughts have solid wood backs and sides, making them heavier than their concert counterparts. They also have flat tops instead of rounded tops, which makes them less prone to warping. 

Dreadnoughts also have maple or spruce tops, while Concerts have laminate tops made of thin strips of hardwood glued together. Also unlike Dreadnoughts, Concerts do not have any binding at the top of the fingerboard. 

Materials

There are a few materials that make up the majority of a Concert’s construction. One of the most important is the back and side panels.

These parts of the guitar are usually constructed using mahogany, which gives the guitar its rich, dark tone. Mahogany is used because it has great resonance and volume. It is also very stable, meaning that it won’t warp like other woods such as rosewood can. 

This is also the same for the dreadnought, which uses mahogany – either Indian or Brazilian – to increase the overall bold sound and tone the instrument is known for.

Since the loud sound is the objective when constructing the back and side panels, concert guitars and dreadnoughts tend to use the same materials here. 

Another essential part of the guitar is the top plate, which is actually a little different for both guitars. The top plate is where all the sound waves come in contact with the instrument.

It is typically made of alder in concerts, but sometimes spruce, poplar, or even ash is used. Ash tends to give the guitar a brighter tone. In dreadnoughts, spruce is used almost exclusively. 

This is because spruce is a very strong and flexible wood that can stand up to the deep reverberations that are produced by the guitar. It is also a highly resonant wood that helps the guitar to sing beautifully when played. 

Finally, the sides and neck are constructed using multiple layers of laminates. Each layer adds more stability and strength to the guitar. All the components of the guitar are designed to work together to create an instrument that sounds beautiful and resonant. 

Sound Quality

While both instruments will produce similar tones when played by skilled musicians, Dreadnoughts and Concerts differ greatly when it comes to how they sound. A Dreadnought’s bright, clear tone is what you expect from an acoustic. 

But a Concert’s sound, especially after being tuned properly, is often described as “darker”, “richer”, and even “warmer”. This darker sound is due to the construction of the guitar. It is actually the way that the guitar produces its tones that set it apart from a Dreadnought.

When a Concert is initially built, it undergoes a process known as gluing. Glue is applied to the inside edges of the top plate and the sides. Then, the pieces of wood are pressed into place.

Once this is done, the top plate is attached to the sides and the sides are then attached to each other. This ensures that the whole thing is sealed off and doesn’t allow any sound to escape. 

As you might imagine, this method creates a very thick wall around the sound cavity. This means that the wood vibrating against itself amplifies the sound. Because the sound is amplified, the instrument becomes much louder than a regular one would be. 

The downside of this is that the sound quality suffers. If the instrument isn’t properly set up, it can get muddy and noisy. As a result, many experts recommend setting up a Concert before playing it.

By doing so, your instrument will have time to settle down and become well-balanced while producing a clearer, less distorted sound.

Since a dreadnought relies on its large body to produce a loud sound, rather than making sure that no sound escapes, there is no excess material that affects sound quality and so it can be played at any time without any need for settling or adjusting the guitar itself. 

Playability

One of the biggest differences between a concert and a Dreadnought is their playability. When a Concert is first put into action, it may seem like it has a lot going on.

There are lots of parts moving around, and it could take some getting used to. However, once you’ve got the hang of things, it really does make for a great sounding instrument.

Because the Concert uses smaller scale strings than a Dreadnought, it allows you to finger pick more easily. Additionally, the larger fretboard makes it easier to press strings down without hitting the frets too hard. 

These two factors combined mean that a Dreadnought is a bit harder to learn than a Concert. That said, if you’re willing to practice and experiment with your instrument, you’ll find that you’ll eventually master the nuances of both guitars.

Price 

While a guitar can be purchased for as little as $10, when you start getting into specifics, high quality construction, and materials, the price can change considerably. 

Most concert guitars range from $90 to $300 in price and most dreadnought guitars range from about $100 to $400, meaning the concert is slightly cheaper in general.

This is because the dreadnought is bigger and has a more unique, and thus difficult to construct, shape to it, requiring more expertise to construct it. 

If we are talking about premium guitars that is a different matter. A high quality Concert starts at $1,200, whereas a Dreadnought starts at about $600.

The difference in price reflects the fact that a Concert takes a little longer to build and requires extra materials and tools. In addition, since a Concert’s sound is a bit darker, it tends to require a higher level of skill from the builder.

The primary reason for this turnaround in price is the extra features you receive when you get a high quality concert.

A dreadnought is constructed for the musician, not to play to large crowds like the concert is. So, it does not have tuners, plugs, resonators, pickups, or any other additional features that can be added to the concert guitar. 

As such, the price is solely for the high quality materials and the construction itself, making it all round cheaper when purchasing a higher quality guitar. 

Aesthetic

To us, the aesthetic aspect comes down to personal preference. If you want something that looks nice and fits in with your style, then a dreadnought might be right for you. But if you prefer something that stands out, then a concert might suit you best. 

The only real way to tell is by trying them out and seeing which one feels comfortable and sounds good to you.

The Positives and Negatives of Each Guitar

Dreadnought vs Concert: Which is a Better Acoustic Guitar Variant?

When looking at guitars, it is not only important to look at the differences between them. You need to look also at the merits of each individual instrument and decide which fits better for you based on those merits.

As such, we will look more closely at these two types of guitar, what makes them good, and what makes them bad. 

Pros of a Concert Guitar

The concert guitar is perfect for beginners and people just being introduced to stringed instruments, because it is designed to be balanced.

The size and the shape comfortably fit against the body and make the guitar easy to play in either a sitting or standing position. Since the size is completely middle of the road it is also easy for smaller, average, or larger people to play without giving them discomfort. 

The guitar also allows for the easier playing of fingerstyle pieces. This type of style focuses mainly on plucking the strings with the tips of your fingers and uses all five digits on the plucking hand to create melodies and rhythms out of singular notes.

The clear tones that the concert guitar produces means that these singular notes are distinct and when combined form beautiful sounding patterns. 

This makes the concert guitar an ideal solo instrument as it draws from many of the positives of the guitars around it. 

Cons of a Concert Guitar

The downside to a concert guitar is that it is generally not made for heavy use. It is primarily designed for lighter usage and therefore lacks durability.

This is why most concert guitars come equipped with some sort of case or bag to protect them. These cases do their job well, but they lack the strength needed to withstand heavier usage.

Another issue is the sound. Although the sound of a concert guitar is beautiful and concise, it is not great at projection.

Even though things have been done to concert guitars to make them louder – like gluing – this is not a foolproof solution and, unfortunately, it can only do so much without making the body bigger. 

This also has a negative impact on the bass tones and if a band is using a concert guitar to produce these, it can be quite hard to hear them over the rest of the song. 

This makes the concert guitar a bad choice for those needing an acoustic for their band. The heavy usage, the lack of sound projection, and the lack of bass means that they are often left at the wayside when it comes to bands first choices of guitars. 

Pros of a Dreadnought Guitar

The dreadnought guitar is perfect for players looking for a versatile acoustic. It is built to last and is strong enough to stand up to even the heaviest usage.

Because of its design, it is able to project very loud while still maintaining clarity. When played, the dreadnought guitar is known for its warm tone and rich lows. 

The guitar’s size is also perfect for smaller hands. This makes it easy to hold onto and gives you plenty of leverage to press down harder on the strings. It also helps you maintain a steady pace during a performance as there is no awkwardness in moving your arm back and forth. 

The guitar is also suitable for any style of music. Whether you choose to finger pick or strum, the dreadnought will work well for you. Its versatility also extends to what kind of songs you want to perform. You could easily play jazz standards, rock classics, or even blues numbers. 

Although the dreadnought guitar may seem more expensive than other types, it is actually cheaper than most other options. Most dreadnoughts are sold new for less than $500 which is half the price of most acoustics.

They also tend to last longer than other models as they are designed to withstand the heavy usage that a live performer experiences. 

The final positive for the dreadnought is the sound. The volume is louder, and it has a better sustain and resonance than most guitars available. This makes it ideal for playing in a band or for a loud audience, as everyone can hear it. 

Since the dreadnought encourages a very strum focused style of play, it slots in nicely to the band dynamic as well.

The sound also means that bass notes are not lost when playing, which is perfect for power chords or dynamic strum sessions and often means you can adapt most songs to fit the sound of the guitar. 

Cons of a Dreadnought Guitar

While the dreadnought guitar does offer many pros, there are a few cons. Firstly, because of its weight, it is difficult to move around with. It is bulky and takes up a lot of space, especially when compared to an electric guitar. 

Secondly, although it is usually made from mahogany, the wood is sometimes prone to cracking. This is common among older guitars, but newer versions of the dreadnought guitar now use different woods which should help prevent this problem. 

It is also worth noting that a dreadnought guitar requires a good level of maintenance. As mentioned above, it is heavier, so it needs to be kept out of the way when not being used.

This means keeping it away from heat sources such as radiators and hot water pipes. If you have small children then it is best to keep them away from it too. A damp cloth or soft brush is great at cleaning off dust and dirt before each use. 

The dreadnought is not a one size fits all guitar either. For those who have shorter arms or larger hands, tend to struggle playing this guitar, either because they can’t reach around the body or the strings are too close together to pluck. 

The other issue for those being introduced to this guitar is steel strings. Most guitars use nylon strings, but dreadnoughts use steel, which – before you develop calluses – is agony on your fingertips. 

All in all, this makes a dreadnought difficult to use in solo playing or for finger playing and is instead quite often relegated to strumming sessions or used in tandem with other instruments. 

Which Should I Choose?

When deciding between a concert and Dreadnought guitar, we recommend going for the latter. 

Although the dreadnought is a bit more difficult to use than a concert guitar, its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages.

These include durability, portability, and the ability to adapt to almost any musical genre. If you’re looking for a versatile instrument that will suit a wide range of styles, go for the dreadnought guitar. 

However, if you prefer a guitar that is easier to play, then the concert model is probably a better choice. It’s lighter and smaller, making it easy to carry and store. Although the dreadnought sounds amazing, it might take some time to get used to due to its size and weight. 

Both guitars are excellent choices if you want to start learning how to play the guitar. They are both durable, portable, and affordable.

You don’t need to worry about buying the wrong guitar because they are fairly similar. If you’re interested in getting started with your guitar lessons, we suggest starting with one of these two models.

Conclusion 

Even though the dreadnought edges out the concert guitar in terms of pros and cons, that by no means makes the concert a bad guitar.

It is a wonderful guitar, and it outperforms the dreadnought in various different circumstances. The difference is that the dreadnought just happens to be better in most situations. 

Depending on how you plan to play the guitar, whether you are just starting to learn the guitar, or what music you play though, you might find the concert a far better choice for you personally.

Therefore, we encourage you to make your decision based on your situation and what feels right for you. 

Thank you for reading!

Howard Matthews